Terminus (2000 video game)

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North American box art
Developer(s)Vicarious Visions
Publisher(s)Vatical Entertainment
Designer(s)Terminus Team
  • Dave Calvin
Composer(s)Todd Masten
Platform(s)Microsoft Windows
  • WW: June 29, 2000
Genre(s)Role-playing, space flight simulator
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer

Terminus is a space-flight role-playing action video game by Vicarious Visions. It was released in 2000 for Microsoft Windows, Linux, and Apple Macintosh. Terminus won awards in the 1999 Independent Games Festival for "Technical Excellence" and "Innovation in Audio".


In Story mode, the player chooses one of four careers (United Earth League military, Mars Consortium militia, Marauder Pirate Clan, mercenary) and follows Terminus's single-player storyline, set in the year 2197. In 2000, Terminus was unusual among RPGs in that the player's actions can affect the ending of the storyline. Failing a mission, for example, may lead to a different ending than would have occurred if the mission had succeeded. One unique feature of Terminus is the story would progress with or without the player. The player could begin the game in story mode, then go off and do something else and the story missions/battles would still take place, reaching an outcome depending on which side eventually wins.

In Free mode, the player chooses a career and does the same as in Story mode, except there will be no storyline missions. In Gauntlet mode, the player outfits a ship with near-infinite money at their disposal, and faces several waves of attackers, with the object of staying alive for as long as possible.


Terminus was our passion project. It was huge and complex. We really didn't know how to make a game of that size. It was incredibly innovative and took four years to make. In 1999, we entered the first Independent Games Festival at GDC. Terminus won two awards – Best Programming and Best Audio. It "put us on the map" and gave us visibility amongst the big game publishers. But getting anyone to publish such a risky & ambitious title proved to be very difficult. We had to get some other paying gigs to keep Terminus alive and get it published!

Vicarious Visions, Our Culture: Indie Days 1999-2004.[1]

Polygon explained that Vicarious Visions' first major game "following the publishing debacle during college", was the space combat role-playing video game Terminus. President Karthik Bala said "We ended up getting a personal bank loan for a million dollars. We knew if we didn't figure this out and make it work, we'd be screwed for the rest of our lives."[2] The duo of developers had been left with a mountain of debt from development costs on Synnergist due to the publishers not giving them royalties for the game, and began work on this project on 1996.[3]

Back in January 1998, the "Vicarious Visions' seven full-time employees and squadron of contractors" were laboring to complete the game, which at the time was to be the company's second release. At that point "The development budget for Terminus ha[d] already crossed the $250,000 mark with months' more work to be done before an expected September 1998 release."[4] Bala said at the time "Terminus will include not only network and Internet play, which is becoming almost standard in games, but also the capability for players to communicate by voice."[4] Bala retrospectively said "The Department of Defense had recently declassified an audio compression algorithm that we ended up using and writing Voice over IP within our game at the time. We did some really cool stuff primarily because it hadn't been done."[2] As a contest finalist at the first annual Independent Games Festival (the game ended up taking home two awards), "Terminus was exhibited on the show floor at the Game Developers Conference, March 16–18 in San Jose, Calif."[5] Polygon explained that despite winning some industry awards, "publishers were reluctant to take on the project [and] when Vatival Entertainment finally shipped the game in 2000, it hardly sold."[2] By 1999, the company employed 15 people, "including four Rensselaer graduates and two undergrads".[5]

Terminus is notable for its implementation of Newtonian laws of motion, which means that objects are subject to inertia. Once accelerated, they float indefinitely in one direction unless again accelerated into a different direction. This makes steering quite complicated, but mirrors actual behavior in free space. BarrysWorld explains "The game has a newtonian (i.e 'realistic') flight model, that is to say that the ships will not fly like jet planes but they will actually obey the laws of Newtonian physics. In order to go in another direction you'll need to slowdown to a stop and then go in the direction that you want to move in. All this will be accomplished by a kind of reaction control system autopilot that attempts to keep you moving in the direction you are pointing."[6] The site added "Terminus should be the first of a series of sims that will encourage 'l33t' skillz to master."[6]

Support for Terminus has long since ended. Although the game is still licensed by Vicarious Visions, the source code was licensed to the owner of the TerminusPoint website[7] to allow continued development of the game and thus has been improved and enhanced. Although the client files are still available at the TerminusPoint website, the project has seemingly been abandoned.


At the time of its release, the game received above-average reviews on both platforms according to the review aggregation website GameRankings.[8][9]

PC Zone said, "Overall, while not as flashy as other recent space-sims, Terminus has lots of substance. It packs so much into the game."[19] GameSpy said, "With Terminus, Vicarious Visions has raised the bar of excellence within three simultaneous genres, but couldn't quite glue all the pieces together into a cohesive whole."[15] Gamer's Pulse said, "In the end, Terminus failed to truly excite me. That's not to say that the game isn't fun to play; it does offer a good time to the pilot within us all."[20] Computer Games Strategy Plus said, "When everything is said and done, Terminus comes out looking-and feeling-good."[11] GameSpot wrote, "Terminus offers flawed but nonetheless decent space combat action, along with an impressive online play feature. The game ought to be appealing on account of this and its cross-platform compatibility, but its glitches and general lack of polish considerably diminish its overall quality."[14] MacADDICT called it "an intermittently fantastic game that should appeal to flight-sim jockeys, hardcore sci-fi fans, and anyone who's ever wanted to wield two joysticks."[17]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Result Ref
1999 Independent Games Festival Awards Technical Excellence ($3,000) Won [2]
Excellence In Audio ($3,000) Won


  1. ^ "Our Culture (Indie Days 1999-2004)". Vicarious Visions. Archived from the original on July 17, 2014. Retrieved September 11, 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d Plante, Chris (February 13, 2013). "From two-person team to Activision workhorse: the rise and rise of Vicarious Visions". Polygon. Vox Media. Retrieved September 10, 2014.
  3. ^ Langshaw, Mark (September 29, 2013). "Vicarious Visions: From indie pioneer to mainstream powerhouse". Digital Spy. Hearst Communications. Retrieved June 13, 2022.
  4. ^ a b Orenstein, David (January 23, 1998). "His 'Visions' Are a Dream Come True". Times Union. Hearst Communications. Archived from the original on September 3, 2014. Retrieved June 6, 2022.
  5. ^ a b "Tech Park Gaming Company Lauded". Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. March 1999. Archived from the original on September 3, 2014. Retrieved June 13, 2022.
  6. ^ a b MikeyBear (2000). "E3 Report - Space Sims ... What You Can Expect (Page 2)". BarrysWorld. Archived from the original on February 15, 2001. Retrieved September 10, 2014.
  7. ^ "TPE V0.04 Now Available for download!". Terminus Point. 2001. Archived from the original on June 24, 2014. Retrieved September 10, 2014.
  8. ^ a b "Terminus for Macintosh". GameRankings. CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on May 18, 2019. Retrieved June 13, 2022.
  9. ^ a b "Terminus for PC". GameRankings. CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on June 8, 2019. Retrieved June 13, 2022.
  10. ^ Dultz, Marc (July 18, 2000). "Terminus". Gamecenter. CNET. Archived from the original on August 15, 2000. Retrieved June 13, 2022.
  11. ^ a b Hunt, David Ryan (July 24, 2000). "Terminus". Computer Games Strategy Plus. Strategy Plus, Inc. Archived from the original on May 21, 2003. Retrieved June 12, 2022.
  12. ^ a b Suciu, Peter (July 17, 2000). "Terminus (Mac, PC)". The Electric Playground. Greedy Productions Ltd. Archived from the original on February 23, 2002. Retrieved June 13, 2022.
  13. ^ Bergren, Paul (September 2000). "Terminus". Game Informer. No. 89. FuncoLand.
  14. ^ a b Ryan, Michael E. (July 14, 2000). "Terminus Review [date mislabeled as "July 18, 2000"]". GameSpot. Red Ventures. Archived from the original on October 21, 2004. Retrieved June 13, 2022.
  15. ^ a b Farmer, Doug (August 18, 2000). "Terminus". GameSpy. GameSpy Industries. Archived from the original on February 15, 2002. Retrieved September 10, 2014.
  16. ^ Hanyok, Matt (August 10, 2000). "Terminus". IGN. Ziff Davis. Retrieved June 13, 2022.
  17. ^ a b Sammis, Ian (November 2000). "Terminus". MacADDICT. No. 51. Imagine Media. p. 70. Archived from the original on October 30, 2001. Retrieved June 12, 2022.
  18. ^ "Terminus". PC Gamer. Imagine Media. 2000.
  19. ^ a b Shiali, John (September 2000). "Terminus". PC Zone. No. 93. Dennis Publishing. pp. 76–77. Archived from the original on June 24, 2007. Retrieved June 13, 2022.
  20. ^ "Terminus". Gamer's Pulse. 2000. Archived from the original on August 16, 2000. Retrieved September 10, 2014.

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